How did the Dodgers resurrect their season?
On May 16th the Dodgers were 16 – 26 and had lost six games in a row to the likes of the Cincinnati Reds and Miami Marlins. They were only 8.5 games out of 1st place because the Arizona Diamondbacks were involved in their own freefall.
The Dodgers are now 30 – 30 and very much back in the NL Western Division hunt, as well as the best record in the National League.
How did they get here?
It wasn’t with Clayton Kershaw who has pitched all of five innings during the hot stretch.
It wasn’t with Justin Turner leading the offensive charge when he returned on May 15th, as Justin Turner has put up a measly .660 OPS since he returned.
It wasn’t with the Catchers who forgot how to hit in May and so far in June.
It was because of these guys, some improbable, some not so improbable.
As someone who has time to time had trouble with Dave Roberts in-game decisions, his playing personnel decisions are a big reason why the Dodgers are now 30 – 30.
Dave choose bullpen pitcher Ross Stripling to become a starter when the team needed one instead of Brock Stewart who was already stretched out and Ross rewarded that Dave Roberts decision to become the best pitcher for the Dodgers, and the second best pitcher in the NL during his run.
Dave looked at Max Muncy and decided he needed to get his bat into the lineup and moved Cody Bellinger to CF to make room for Max at 1st base after Justin Turner had returned from the DL. This was a very questionable move at the time and the kind of move that might make Dave Roberts the Manager of the Year. Max only had an OPS of .775 on May 15th, it was not like anyone was clamoring to “get Max Muncy into the lineup”.
Yasiel Puig went on the DL April 28th with an OPS of .500. Puig returned on May 9th and put up an OPS of .970 in May, and currently has a June OPS of 1.441.
Matt Kemp – what can you say about Matt Kemp? He’s been everything he wasn’t supposed to be. The bison is back and combined with the Wild Horse the Dodgers have run roughshod over the NL pasture.
Walker Buehler has been the most impressive rookie hurler since the days of Clayton Kershaw.
Chris Taylor took over shortstop duties on April 30th. He had an OPS at the time of .695. As the Dodgers starting shortstop he has put up an OPS of .930. The man he replaced had a career OPS of .866 and was considered a MVP level player. What does that make Chris Taylor?
Joc Pederson was late to the party and was a realistic candidate to go to AAA and be replaced by Alex Verdugo who is considered by many the best position prospect in the system. Joc couldn’t buy a home run and had a May OPS of .602. Many, including myself, wondered which one of Cody Bellinger or Joc Pederson would get sent to AAA because it seemed one of them probably needed to jump-start their season in AAA. Joc went into Coors to start June and had one of the most productive games for any Dodger this season. Joc followed that up with a big game last night. His June OPS now sits at 1.600 but we have to keep several things in mind. Joc did this damage at Coors and against a Pirate pitcher who he had homered against three times. Could this be a harbinger of things to come? He certainly has the talent and has shown it in the past.
Kenley Jansen was certainly a big part of the Dodger struggles in April, but he has righted the ship and is now in Jansen cruise control, making all Dodger fans feel safe again when he takes the mound to protect a win in the 9th inning.
How about Scott Alexander. Scott was the big bullpen acquisition this past winter but he looked like a bust when he sent to AAA to get straightened out. Scott left for AAA with an ERA of 6.35, he returned on May 9th. Over his next twelve appearances, he has given up a run just once. Scott has become a big part of the bridge to Jansen.
The rest of the bridge has also been quite good. Fields, Baez, Cingrani, even Erik Goedell. Dodger fans no longer cringe when the bullpen is summoned as once again, Dodger management has proven fluent at building that Jansen bridge.
Kenta Maeda needs to get a mention here. He may be on the DL right now but when the Dodgers needed some big games from a piece of the rotation, Kenta delivered the goods.
All in all, it was a bizarre team effort that has the Dodgers at 30 – 30 and it makes me look forward to the next 60 game stretch.